The Top Companies Advancing Women-Owned Businesses — and How They’re Doing It

By Jemima McEvoy Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Each year, the Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC) releases a list of the top US companies advancing women-owned businesses. These enterprises go above and beyond to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs otherwise affected by problems like limited funding, stereotyping, and sexism.

On September 23, GWBC, one of the nation’s leading providers of certification and development resources for women business enterprises, announced the 11 corporations topping its 2020 Top Corporations of the Year ranking. Here’s who they are:

  • Accenture
  • AT&T
  • Bank of America
  • BMW Manufacturing Co.
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Georgia Power
  • Grady Health System
  • McKesson Corporation
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Truist Financial Corporation
  • UPS

Despite all the challenges to businesses big and small this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, “these corporate partners have continued to step up and represent best in class innovators in supplier diversity and procurement,” President and CEO of GWBC Roz Lewis said. “We’re grateful for their continued support for all they do to empower women-owned businesses.”

Despite owning more than 11.6 million US firms, employing nearly 9 million and generating $1.7 trillion in sales, as of 2019, less than 6% of firms owned by women generated revenues of $250,000 or more in 2018. This discrepancy has led to a persistent stunted profitability that the US Chamber of Commerce sources to three key problems: lack of funding, low self-confidence, and market saturation. These inequalities have only been exacerbated by months of shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 crisis in the US, devastating both supply and demand.

“Women-owned small businesses have been more heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic than male-owned small businesses, and they are less likely to anticipate a strong recovery in the year ahead,” concluded the US Chamber of Commerce in a recent poll about the coronavirus.

The companies topping the GWBC’s list are working to relieve and remedy some of the more institutional challenges to businesses in parts of the country. To earn recognition from the organization, companies had to first be GWBC partners. Then, they had to have a dedicated supplier diversity program serving Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; exceed spend goals with women business enterprises; and participate in educational and development activities with women-owned businesses in the region.

The 11 companies all accomplished this, demonstrating “a passion for inspiring, engaging, empowering and furthering the success of women-owned businesses,” per a press release from the organization. However, how each company met these goals and continues to impact women-owned businesses in its vicinity is different.

North Carolina-based Truist Financial Corporation, for example, in September, donated $40 million to help establish a new national nonprofit fund, CornerSquare Community Capital, with the goal of supporting selected community development financial institutions (CDFIs) through purchasing 25% loan participations. This is a unique and innovative partnership model enabling the CDFIs to boost their lending capacity, which in turn, allows them to support more local businesses. Furthermore, 100% of the funds are reserved for racially and ethnically diverse small business owners, women, and individuals in low-income communities.

Accenture, a multinational professional services Fortune 500 company, recently created a tech-focused Black Founders Development Program through its venture capital arm Accenture Ventures. “Leadership, resources, technology and investment knowledge are all areas where Accenture can deliver significant support to Black entrepreneurs, helping them to accelerate innovation and further grow their businesses,” said the program’s lead at Accenture Ventures Kathryn Ross. Much of this money will be directed to Black female founders, who are hindered by funding biases against women and Black entrepreneurs.

On the other hand, Georgia Power, as the first utility in the nation to implement supplier diversity initiatives back in 1978, has a slew of long-standing programs to boost supplier diversity. According to its website, Georgia Power has spent nearly $1.8 billion with diverse businesses over the last five years and continues to set new goals for itself. Key initiatives include the Minority Business Education Program at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, which prepares promising suppliers to grow their business; the FastTrac Program, which helps companies examine their businesses and develop strategies for future growth; a Supplier Mentoring Program and a Supplier Sponsorship Program, through which Georgia Power pays for the registration of qualified diverse suppliers at trade shows and conferences.

Whether these companies have been trying to boost diversity in entrepreneurship for decades or have just started their own programs, the important thing is that they’re all trying to make a difference in their own way.

About the Author

Headshot of Jemima McEvoy

Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.

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